'Not his finest hour' - Leeds United and Wolves controversial decisions reviewed by ex PGMOL chief
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Keith Hackett, a FIFA-listed referee for 10 years before a stint as head of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, was not impressed with a couple of decisions made by the man in charge at Molineux, Michael Salisbury.
The Lancashire official was refereeing his 16th Premier League fixture on Saturday and had to deal with a litany of contentious incidents. He flashed his yellow card eight times in total and produced his red twice
A first half challenge on Nelson Semedo by Junior Firpo in the Leeds penalty area led to vehement appeals for a spot-kick from the hosts, but VAR David Coote stuck with Salisbury’s initial decision to let the game go on.
Hackett held some sympathy for Wolves in this instance but feels two issues are clouding judgement for officials in such circumstances.
"I was surprised that the penalty kick wasn't given, in fairness, because I think there was contact," he told the YEP.
"I think where the confusion is arising with certain referees is that they're almost looking for something that's worse. What they've got to do is get back to basics and recognise a foul is a foul. And I think what really does make it difficult is that we see acts of simulation, exaggeration going on pretty consistently. That makes life very difficult for the referee. So they’ve decided there's insufficient impact in the context for him to award that penalty kick."
Salisbury's next big call came in the Wolves half of the pitch three minutes from the interval when Craig Dawson, booked on 37 minutes for catching Jack Harrison, hauled down Patrick Bamford just outside the area. Bamford had spun in behind the defender, who took him to the floor and then, as Willy Gnonto tried to retrieve the ball, kicked it away.
Salisbury kept his cards in his pocket.
"I think that referees have to be consistent and I think Dawson was very fortunate to stay on, for sure," said Hackett.
"Having given him a yellow, if any player commits a similar challenge or a challenge that is reckless under the laws of the game, that's a cautionable offence."
The referee did get a sending off decision right in the second half, in Hackett's eyes, with the help of Coote, who spotted on replays that Jonny had gone in over the ball and caught Luke Ayling forcefully above the ankle with his studs.
A visit to the monitor allowed Salisbury to cancel his initial yellow card and produce a red.
"I think this was exactly how VAR should operate," said Hackett.
"It's a red card offence and there's no doubt in my mind that that decision to dismiss him was the correct one."
Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui, who stood at the edge of his technical area screaming 'he got the ball' at Salisbury during the red card deliberations, was further incensed in stoppage time when the referee ignored a shirt pull on Adama Traore and Leeds broke to score their fourth.
VAR again drew Salisbury's attention to the monitor, however he elected to go with his initial decision and awarded the goal.
"When I coach referees I talk about safety refereeing and safety refereeing is 'here is a shirt pull, there's no doubt and the easy decision is to give a free-kick.' I don't think he effectively applied an advantage, he got that wrong, so for me that was a wrong decision by the referee.
"I can't understand why, having looked at the pictures, having been sent to the monitor by the VAR, who was correct to do that, he's then got the opportunity and should have taken the opportunity to review and say right okay, I'm giving the free-kick, disallowing the goal. I think it's an easy decision. He's a relatively young referee to the Premier League and for me that wasn't his finest hour."
Wolves suffered a second red card as they reacted to the officiating of that incident, Matheus Nunes making contact with an assistant referee after fourth official Andre Marriner had been surrounded by home staff and players. Salisbury sent off Nunes, an unused substitute, and Wolves will reportedly submit an appeal.
Hackett believes the surrounding of officials is all too commonplace and will require FA action to bring it to a halt, although he insists it should never have any bearing on the officiating that follows.
"It's obviously out of hand at the moment and I think that the FA have got to act to try to get some degree of normality. I think it reflects badly on the image of the game around the world. It shouldn't necessarily influence the referee, he's got to apply the laws, he's been well trained, there are sports psychologists who actually assist them in the process."
Lopetegui, who sought an audience with the officials at full-time,
"I want the decisions to be fair and not have the sensation of feeling it is unbalanced," he said in his post-game press conference.
"At the end of the season things normally even out but we are very unlucky. The referee decisions until this moment, I can make a book – it’s incredible. There have been bad decisions against Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Newcastle, now here. I understand there can be mistakes but I am repeating myself about the same mistakes against us, and it is not easy. I try to be honest."